Culture

El Gato staff recommend their favorite books

organized by Jackie King

People Editor

 

Educated 

by Tara Westover 

This memoir details the life of the author’s coming of age in a Mormon, survivalist family living in rural Idaho. Westover, despite rough beginnings, eventually proceeds to defy the limitations of her upbringing and the wishes of her family by attending college and discovering the people, places, and ideas from which she was sheltered throughout her adolescence. This memoir forces readers to consider the raw value and blessing of education, as well as the potential that a cognizance of the world’s magnitude and diversity holds. 

Lexi Kupor People Editor

_Educated

(courtesy interabang books)

 

The Sympathizer

by Viet Thanh Nguyen 

“I am a spy, a sleeper, a spook, a man of two faces. Perhaps not surprisingly, I am also a man of two minds.” So begins the elusive narrator, a Franco-Vietnamese Communist spy in the US during the Vietnam War. As he wrestles with his dual identities – half white and half Asian, an immigrant, a Communist pretending not to be – we start to recognize the narrator’s divided interiority as a broader story about the American immigrant experience. To me, this book gets as close to the next Great American Novel as Fitzgerald or Twain. It’s truly emblematic of our times.

Esther Sun Opinion Editor

_Sympathizer

(courtesy itsafanlife)

 

Survivor 

by Chuck Palahniuk

This book is the perfect blend of wisdom, social commentary, and absolute insanity. Similar to Palahniuk’s other notable works like Fight Club, Survivor is hilarious, disturbing, and emotional at times, while simultaneously always making you question reality and wonder what exactly it is you’re supposed to be reading. Survivor is a great book for anyone who loves contemporary literature and dark humor. Just be prepared to be confused. 

Morgan Tinsley Editor-in-Chief

_Survivor

(courtesy fictondb)

 

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks 

by Rebecca Skloot 

Skloot’s stunning non-fiction novel reveals the controversial history of early stem cell research and the origin of the immortal cells of a young African American, Henrietta Lacks. Lacks’ cells are taken without consent, used to make breakthroughs and profit in science research, but her family remains in poverty. Skloot expertly captures the audience’s attention with personal interviews and introduces an interesting perspective on the scientific community. Truly an intriguing book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is fascinating, inspiring, and worth the read.

Wilma Wei Humor Editor

_HenriettaImmortal

(courtesy flickr)

 

Lullaby 

by Chuck Palahniuk

Another Palahniuk classic, Lullaby is a satirical horror novel following a reporter cursed with the memorization of an African culling song that’s killing people across the country. Blended with supernatural elements, the book cleverly makes you laugh, wonder, and ask how something so weird was published. Whether you’re a diehard Palahniuk fan, are bored enough to read something unusual, or are willing to be freaked out, Lullaby will put all your needs to rest.

Sophie Sullivan Media Production Editor

_Lullaby

(courtesy film)

 

The Princess Bride 

by William Goldman 

“Fencing. Fighting. Torture. Poison. True Love. Hate. Revenge. Giants. Hunters. Bad men. Good men. Beautifulest Ladies. Snakes. Spiders. Pain. Death….Chases. Escapes. Lies. Truths. Passion. Miracles” are simply grazing the top of everything that occurs throughout William Goldman’s The Princess Bride. If you have not yet fallen deep into the story, there is no time like the present. This novel seamlessly combines comedy, fantasy, drama, romance, and fairy tale into one entrancing novel, making it impossible to put down. Prepare to be amazed if you choose to dive into this classical tale of true love and high adventure. 

Jackie King People Editor

_PrincessBride

(courtesy flickr)

 

Tell the Wolves I’m Home

by Carol Rifka Brunt

This book takes a unique perspective on the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and allows the reader to develop a deep and meaningful connection with each of the characters portrayed. Teenage girl June Elbus copes with the death of her uncle and meets her uncle’s secret boyfriend, all the while dealing with high school as a peculiar girl. 

Alia Arafeh Culture Editor

_TellTheWolves

(courtesy Pac Macmallian)

 

The Fault in Our Stars 

By John Green

This book tells the story of two teenagers and their experiences with cancer. After meeting each other in a support group, Augustus and Hazel quickly become friends and share a mutual love of books. After reading An Imperial Affliction and being unsatisfied with the ending, the two manage to get a meeting with the author in Amsterdam, after which the story takes a pivotal turn. The Fault in Our Stars explores power of friendship, love, and the fragility of life.

Revanth Rao National/World Editor

_TFIO

(courtesy flickr)

 

Night 

by Elie Wiesel 

Elie Wiesel masterfully depicts the diabolical horrors of the Holocaust. Wiesel takes the reader through his real-life experiences as an interned prisoner during the Holocaust. Through his time in the camps, he witnesses the unjust killings of thousands, walks countless miles in the freezing cold, and even watches his own father die. His raw story-telling makes it impossible for the reader to escape the realities that Wiesel endured. However, Wiesel has the unique ability to allow the reader to sympathize with him despite the reader never going through the Holocaust themselves. 

Senji Torri Sports Editor

_Night

(courtesy flickr)

 

A Gentleman in Moscow 

by Amor Towles

A timely choice for our current isolated situation, in this book Count Alexander Rostov is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal and sentenced to permanent house arrest in the hotel Metropol. An intelligent and witty character, Rostov lives in an attic room as some of the most eventful and tumultuous decades in Russian history unfold. Towles beautifully renders scenes and characters to make the confines of the hotel the perfect setting for redefining what it means to live with purpose.

Madeline King Editor-in-Chief

a-gentleman-in-moscow-book-club-questions

(courtesy bookbub)

 

Fight Club 

by Chuck Palahniuk

“The first rule of fight club is you don’t talk about fight club.” Before this phrase was printed on millions of tee shirts and quoted by the masses, Chuck Palahniuk wrote a book called Fight Club. Palahniuk keeps you in a constant state of confusion, disbelief, and disgust in only the way a truly outstanding thriller can. After readers get plugged into what seems like a murder-suicide-terrorist attack in the first six sentences of the book, the suspense only grows. 

Lucy Holland Sports Editor

_FightClub

(courtesy birmingham365)

 

Swell

by Captain Liz Clark

Captain Liz Clark invites readers into her world from the past couple of years as she sails around the world. Clark describes how she acquired the sailboat and details all of her triumphs and tribulations that took place along her journey. Accompanying her beautifully honest words she includes some photographs of her travels which truly makes it feel like you along on the adventure with her.  

Alis Patterson Media Production Editor

_Swell

(courtesy powell’s books)

 

Lilac Girls

by Martha Hall Kelly

Providing an often-ignored perspective on history, Lilac Girls follows the story of Nazi imposition and WWII through women’s eyes. With a Polish teenager working in an underground resistance movement, a German doctor who finds herself operating in a concentration camp, and an American woman determined to use her status to enact beneficial changes, the novel intertwines three equally captivating stories to tell an inspiring tale of resilience and courage. Though heavy in subject matter, Lilac Girls is unique in its ability to preserve hope. Martha Hall Kelly’s unparalleled writing shines in this novel inspired by historical figures.

Alaina Fox News Editor

_Lilac

(courtesy read it forward)

 

The Book Thief 

by Markus Zusak 

The Book Thief details the story of a young girl living in Nazi Germany and how her adopted family decides to hide a Jewish man in their basement. The story is a bit of a coming of age novel and takes on heavy topics through the eyes of an adolescent, and let me tell you, the tears will come. Many of them. I love this book with my whole entire heart because I think it really tackles complex issues like antisemitism, the inevitability of death, innocence, and growing up. Another cool thing is it’s narrator is Death, which leads to a cool perspective on the entire story.

Amelia Enns Humor Editor

_Thief

(courtesy flicker)

 

Pride and Prejudice 

by Jane Austen

The 1813 classic Pride and Prejudice is one of the most loved pieces of literature ever written. Two characters from different social classes with completely different beliefs allow their pride and prejudice to block them from admitting the truth about their feelings towards the other. The novel follows the life of one of these characters, Elizabeth Bennet, living among her four sisters on her father’s estate in Great Britain. Mrs. Bennet is determined to marry off her daughters to men of great wealth because once her husband dies, the family will be left with no inheritance since they are only women. Austen depicts the truth of money, education, marriage, and class when love gets thrown into the mix.      

Jenna Roselli Opinion Editor

_P&P

(courtesy flicker)

 

The Library at Mount Char

by Scott Hawkins 

One of the weirdest yet greatest works in modern fantasy, The Library at Mount Char is uniquely brilliant in its construction and resolution. The novel tells the story of Carolyn, who is saved from death by God himself and forced to study for eternity one of twelve catalogs of existence in the mysterious Library. However, upon God’s inexplicable disappearance from Earth, Carolyn’s role in the fate of the universe is called into question. The Library at Mount Char is an incredibly captivating and trippy read, with characters ranging from a psychopathic serial killer to a habitual zombie to a walking iceberg. This darkly hilarious novel will keep you up long past midnight, and is a must-read for any dystopian fantasy or sci-fi lovers.

Cooper Bowen National/World Editor

_TheLib

(courtesy fantasy book review)

 

1Q84 

by Haruki Murakami

Set in an alternate reality of 1984 Tokyo, 1Q84 details the story of Aomame, a morally righteous assassin of men who abuse their wives, and Tengo, an esoteric ghostwriter searching for direction. After unwittingly entering a distorted reality – 1Q84 – where the laws of time and matter have shifted, Aomame and Tengo find that their fates are inexplicably tied, the result of a fleeting interaction between the two nearly twenty years before. As they navigate a perilous new reality, the story of a 17-year-old dyslexic writer named Fuka-Eri becomes an indispensable guide to a world filled with mind-bending spirits known as the “little people.” A metaphysical thriller and a compelling love story, 1Q84 is a book that you won’t be able to put down. 

Sofia Rossi National/World Editor

_1Q84

(courtesy flicker)

 

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn 

by Betty Smith 

This book was the first book that I read going into high school and even though it takes years to read, the character development is unlike any other book that I’ve read. One of my favorite aspects of reading is character analysis. This book follows so many characters with such polar opposite personalities. They all come together to create one community and despite their differences, they all learn, grow and depend on each other. This is not necessarily an easy read, but it’s an accomplished one and worth the time.

Sami Elizondo Culture Editor

_TreeGrows

(courtesy pinterest)

 

Pachinko 

by Min Jin Lee 

Pachinko follows the story of one Korean family over four generations. The book starts during Japanese occupation and ends around the 1990s. I love the book because it keeps you engaged with many different storylines that somehow weave together in the end. The book also sheds light on how poorly the Japanese treated Koreans during the early 1900s, a part of history that we are not taught in school. If you love historical fiction, Pachinko is the perfect book for you.

Quincy Marks Public Relations

_Pachinko

(courtesy flickr)

 

Holes 

by Louis Sachar 

Holes by Louis Sachar is a heartwarming and humorous classic that you won’t be able to put down. The story follows a boy named Stanley who ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time and gets sent to Green Lake correctional camp. Every day, the boys must dig a five foot deep and five foot wide hole. A storyline that takes place 110 years prior is weaved throughout the book, and as you get closer to the end, the two storylines tie together in a shocking climax that reveals the true reason behind the holes. But, you have to read the book to find out the hilarious ending.

Caroline Wagner Graphic Designer

-Holes

(courtesy flicker)

 

The DaVinci Code 

by Dan Brown 

Murders. Cults. Enigmas. The Louvre. These are among the things Dan Brown combines to forge a page-turning masterpiece: The DaVinci Code. I loved this mystery novel because it will have you on the edge of your seat the entire time you’re reading it and it is a nice break from the typically less exciting books we have to read for school. You’ll also feel more woke and smarter than everyone else after finishing it, so there’s that, too.

Ethan Sanders Editorial Editor

Screen Shot 2020-03-31 at 11.22.03

(courtesy pinterest)

 

Crazy Rich Asians 

by Kevin Kwon 

This satirical romantic comedy novel gives readers a view into the elite lives of a Singaporean family, which is filled with rivalry, gossip, king-like wealth, schemes, and scandal. The story mainly follows Chinese-American college professor Rachel Chu and her experience meeting her boyfriend’s family in Singapore. However, little does she know his family isn’t just rich, they’re crazy rich. Readers will go through a roller coaster of emotions reading this book as the drama between family members is enthralling, the comedy is worth chuckling over, and the romance is well, romantic.  

Austin Yung Editor-in-Chief

_CrazyRich

(courtesy flickr)

 

Little Women 

by Louisa May Alcott 

“I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.” This classic paints a beautiful tale of womanhood and sisterhood, following the life of four sisters as they learn to navigate life while they chase their individual aspirations. The story is perhaps one of the original ‘one who got away’ tales, full of love and sacrifice. The book guides the reader through the four sisters’ experiences with sexism, love, family turmoil and friendship. If you haven’t read this book, now’s the time. It’s a true feminist tale and life changer in every sense.

Emerson Morley Graphic Designer

_LittleWOmen

(courtesy wikimedia commons)

 

The English Patient

by Michael Ondaatje

This historical epic is, to say the least, inimitable. Ondaatje utilizes words in a way I’ve never seen, making his bestselling novel almost a language in and of itself. The English Patient is the kind of book that makes you see writing as an art, as every single word is intentional. Ondaatje’s characters are each a metaphor for experience and growth, and his melodic descriptions of them evoke emotion and deep contemplation within the reader; “We die containing a richness of lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we have plunged into and swum up as if rivers of wisdom, characters we have climbed into as if trees, fears we have hidden in as if caves.”

Jamie Blough Editor-in-Chief

Michael Ondaatje

(courtesy irishtimes)

 

CHERUB Series 

by Robert Muchamore 

If you are a teenager who is finally starting to grow out of your typical middle school fantasy novels, then CHERUB is the series for you.The twelve book series follows a young man by the name of James Adams, who is a member of a division of MI6 that employs children as intelligence agents. Throughout the series, James goes on several high-stakes intelligence missions that are often action packed and fun to read through. Just as a heads up though, if these books were movies, they would definitely be rated R.

Nick Borgia Public Relations

_REcruit

(courtesy witcoulls)

 

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone 

by J.K. Rowling 

Reading this whimsical series is an epic way to kill any spare time. The quintessential fantasy books allow any reader to be completely transported into the world of wizards and trolls and unicorns while feeding the audience incredible story arcs and characters. I’ve read this series nearly eight times in the past few years; although it seems redundant, each read through provided so much new perspective and appreciation as I get older and experience new things. I end up learning more about myself by connecting with each character (human or otherwise) and the series has greatly impacted my outlook on life. With seven hefty books in this series, you will never be bored if you commit yourself to this utterly magical experience. 

Delaney Brown Center Editor

_HP

(courtesy scroll.in)

 

Hillbilly Elegy 

by J.D. Vance

In this bestselling memoir, JD Vance tells the story of his tumultuous childhood and his unlikely success as a young adult. Born in a poor Rust Belt town, and raised by a highly dysfunctional, yet incredibly loving family, Vance explains how he was able to break the cycle of poverty and addiction that’s plagued America’s white working class for countless generations. A ‘hillbilly,’ a marine, and a Yale law graduate, Vance provides a sincere, compassionate, and brutally honest perspective on the culture of Middle America that’s too often been dismissed and misunderstood by the rest of the country. 

Sasha Ryu Sports Editor

_Hillbilly

(courtesy very good things)

 

Ishmael 

by Daniel Quinn

“Teacher seeks pupil. Must have an earnest desire to save the world. Apply in person.” This three-line ad in a newspaper launches the nameless protagonist into edifying conversations with his new teacher, Ishmael. Delving into ethics, the hegemony of human culture, and warnings about the alacrity with which humans are destroying themselves and the planet, this unique novel is hard to put down. Regardless of whether or not you agree with the conclusions the novel draws, it will certainly challenge you to look beyond your current beliefs. And if that is not enough for you, there is also a telepathic gorilla.

Maddie Dewhirst News Editor

_Ishmael

(courtesy biblio)

Categories: Culture, Web Exclusive

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